Friday, September 19, 2008

Gameday Preview, Week 3: Cincinnati Bengals

Giants look to go 3-0 heading into bye week

The G-men are hoping they can head into their bye week next week a perfect 3-0 with a win this weekend against the visiting Cincinnati Bengals. The Giants have looked impressive on both sides of the ball in their first two wins, dominating opponents on defense and showing signs of an explosive, dangerous offense. Last week they silenced the Rams 41-13, as Eli Manning threw for three touchdowns, "Earth, Wind and Fire" rushed for over 200 yards combined, and the defense threw in 6 sacks and 6 points on a Justin Tuck interception that was returned for a touchdown.

The Giants celebrate Justin Tuck's 4th quarter score in Week 2.

On the heels of such a performance, the Giants now rank in the top 5 in both total offense and total defense. They rank 4th in total offense with an average of 397.5 yards per game, and third in total defense, allowing an average of only 205 yards per game. They also rank 5th in both rushing yards per game and rushing yards allowed, with averages of 177.0 yards and 76.0 yards respectively. The Giants have limited opponents to a stingy 10 points a game, second best in the league.


The Bengals, at this point in the season, are the polar opposites of the defending champs. Cincy ranks among the bottom five teams in most offensive and defensive categories. They rank 30th against the run for example, allowing more than 200 rushing yards per game. This is not surprising given the Bengals' history of poor D, though it may not be the biggest problem in its 0-2 start.

What's most surprising about the struggles of this 2008 Cincinnati team is that the once prolific offense has become even more pathetic than the defense. With a Pro-bowl QB in Carson Palmer, who has thrown for 4,000 yards in previous years, and two Pro-bowl caliber wide receivers in Chad Johnson and T.J. "Hoashmazode" ("Yes! Lock it up..."), Cincy's O has only scored 10 points through 2 games. They rank 30th or worse in points per game, total yards per game, passing yards per game, 3rd down percentage, and time of possession.

The Bengals are standing on the edge of a precipice. Chad Johnson says the team has lost its "mojo" and nobody's playing with much confidence. He is confident though that it will only take one big play to get the ball rolling again for his team. Given their offensive firepower, whatever the statistics, this possibility must not be overlooked...

One thing not being overlooked is this comparison of this 0-2 Bengals team with 2007's 0-2 Giants, in the sense that Cincy has a chance to turn things around and right the ship in the 3rd week of the season, much like the G-men changed their season last year with a 4th quarter goal-line stand against Washington in Week 3. This storyline certainly makes this weekend's match-up more dramatic, but football isn't played in the papers, and once the game gets underway, the Giants should bury any talk of an upset, along with the Bengals' season.


Across the board, the Giants match up favorably against the Bengals. They have the offensive and defensive lines to control the line of scrimmage, and the offensive firepower and defensive athleticism to exploit Cincy's weaknesses and potentially make this a long day for the Bengals. Here's a closer look at some key match-ups that will determine the outcome of the game:
  • Giants' O-line vs. Cincy's Defense: Establishing the Giants' potent running attack will be critical in controlling the clock and determining the outcome of this game. This will depend first and foremost on the ability to control the line of scrimmage. With the fifth best rushing attack going up against the third worst rushing defense, look for Diehl, Seubert, O'Hara, Snee, and McKenzie to open up some big holes for the Giants' three-pronged running attack of Jacobs, Ward, and Bradshaw. I expect another 200+ yard effort and hopefully a few scores for this talented trio of backs.
  • Giants' Front 7 vs. Cincy's O-line: Just as critical to the Giants' success will be the play of the D-line and linebackers on the other side of the ball. Stopping the run and pressuring the QB will be essential to controlling the clock, forcing mistakes, and containing the Bengals' offensive weapons. One source of Cincy's offensive futility has been poor offensive line play. Defenses have been able to bring pressure on Carson Palmer and stop the Bengal offense from gathering any steam because of the porous offensive line. This is another match-up that favors Big Blue as the Giants' defense excels in areas where the Bengals offense struggles. I look for the G-men to bring the heat yet again and try to generate some turnovers.
  • Giants' Secondary vs. C.J. & T.J.: If stopping the Bengals' offense starts with pressuring the QB, it ends with locking up the wide-receivers. The Bengals have two very dangerous weapons in the passing game, who haven't gotten off on the right foot this season. That could change at any minute. It will be up to the Giants' secondary to contain these two stars. CBs Aaron Ross and Corey Webster have been playing outstanding football early in the season, showing athleticism, speed, and good judgment in the field. This must continue while other players step up their game in order to keep Cincinnati out of the end zone and out of the game.
  • Giants' WRs vs. Bengals' Secondary: Finally, while the Bengals' boast 2 big weapons in the passing game, last week's win over the Rams suggests that the Giants could have 5 or 6 big weapons of their own. Eli Manning's targets could have another big day against the beat-up Bengals' DBs. Bolstered by an outstanding running attack, the Giants' passing game looks to step up its chemistry and productivity, building on last week's performance. A second consecutive points-fest on Sunday could mark the emergence of an elite Giants' offense.

The Giants match up very well against their Week 3 opponent, though nothing is a "gimme" in the NFL. Getting the "W" this week means continuing to show the attitude, effort, execution and teamwork that Big Blue has displayed thus far this season. As far as I'm concerned, the Giants are playing at a level I haven't seen for quite some time. There is a swagger and confidence about this team since last year's Super Bowl run. They know how good they can be, and they know what it takes to get to that level.

I believe "that level" is an elite level, and part of reaching that level is being consistent, always improving, and not falling into a trap against inferior teams. Winning in week 3 will be critical for the Giants not only in terms of becoming a better team, but also in terms of their schedule this season. After the bye week, the level of competition will pick up a notch, and come mid-season, Big Blue will be clashing with some of the NFL's best.

The Giants need this win this week to buffer against any impact of these bigger challenges down the road. Furthermore, going into a bye-week, it's important to finish on a high note, so that the team can continue to build on its early season momentum. It will also be important for creating momentum at home and really maximizing the "advantage" in "home field advantage."

Finally, Week 3 also presents the chance for the Giants' to take sole possession of first in NFC East early in the season. The other teams in the division are all squaring off against likely playoff contenders in Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and Arizona, and if things go New York's way in those games, the Giants could take an early lead in the race for the division title.


Here are some things to watch for as the Giants look to elevate their game, and improve on last week's performance:
  • Continuing to get the ball in the end zone; 7s, not 3s
  • Making more big plays on defense
  • Getting to the QB
  • Minimizing penalties


Here are the two players I think could play big roles in Sunday's game:

WR 87 Domenik Hixon - Hixon showed up big time last week on both Special Teams and Offense. He had a punt return for 50 yards (he now leads the league in that category) and he pulled in 3 catches for 60 yards, including a couple of crucial catches in the 4th quarter to sustain Giant drives. This week, he could be a big factor again in both capacities. He's a popular target for Eli, and surrounded by so much other talent at the position, he could take advantage of some defensive match-ups in 3WR and 4WR sets to have another big game.

S 21 Kenny Phillips - On defense, rookie sensation Kenny Phillips could turn some heads this weekend. As I said before, containing the Bengals' receiving tandom of Johnson and "Hoashmizode" (you should really watch that video) will require others in the secondary to step up their games. I think KP is the man to do it. He showed off his much-publicized speed last week when he closed the gap on Tory Holt in 3 nano-seconds to almost pick off the Rams' only touchdown of the game. I think he eliminates "almost" from that sentence this week and has a big day.

... ...

Should be a good game for the Big Blue faithful this weekend. I'll be tuned in on internet TV, as usual. This will be my last game from China as I'm moving back home in a couple weeks, so it will be special watching my last 1 am Giants' game for while...

Here's my prediction: Giants win, 34-13

... ...'s preview of Bengals@Giants's Bengals' Scouting Report

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